Eyes closed and hand held out in front of her – as instructed – she waits. She's slightly nervous, but she trusts him, so it isn't fear. It's anticipation… and intrigue as to what this present is that requires such secrecy, suspense and surprise.
Ever the CSI she uses the senses he hasn't taken away to search for clues. Smell gives her nothing, so she concludes it is not of the food or flower variety. Listening proves equally fruitless – she hears only Gil moving around the office, and the occasional scratching sound as one of his pets moves around in its terrarium: She tries not to think about that! (Although she does acknowledge that if they are scratching around their cages, they are suitably contained!)
She is left with taste and touch, neither of which she can use until he actually gives her something. Denied even a little hint of what she should expect to be placed into her hand, she shifts a little in her seat as her impatience starts to get the better of her.
"Gil you obviously had this planned. Surely you know where you put it?" she prompts him, tempted to peek to see what he's doing.
His voice comes from just in front of her when he responds. "Well, somebody," – from the pointed tone, she knows it was her – "Put a pile of files on top of it when she came in."
She frowns. She doesn't remember seeing anything on the desk except papers. She is about to voice that when something lands in her hand. It is light, it is soft – feels like card perhaps – and when she runs her thumb across it she finds that at some time it has been crumpled.
"This is my present?" she asks, eyes still closed.
She can hear the smile in his voice when he replies. "It's part of it," he says softly. "You can open your eyes now."
She does as he permits and finds him kneeling on the floor in front of her. She shoots him a brief look that tells him this had better be good, before she shifts her gaze to what she holds in her hands. Her frown returns as she takes in that it is a small card, the type used with flowers, but it looks old and weathered. The writing has started to fade, but she can just make out the words, "I love you. Now and always."
Her heart skips a couple of beats – or so it seems – but she can't help but feel that she is missing something. If Gil really was confessing his love for her, wouldn't he use a new card and maybe put it with some flowers?
"Do you know what this is?" he asks her, though he no doubt can see the answer on her face. She can feel how deeply she is frowning.
She looks up so her eyes meet his. "I know what it is… I'm a little lost on why." She speaks carefully, not wanting to disappoint him if he had expected her to have a better understanding of what is going on.
His smile is now amused. He is enjoying that she is so confused.
"Do you remember when we first met?"
Her mind instantly flashes back to a day at the French Palace, police everywhere, and a young crime scene investigator assigned to interview her. But as she is about to reply that 'of course she does', she realises that is not the day he is talking about. Pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place and she watches Gil's smile widen as she feels her own expression morph from confusion to understanding.
Looking back down at the card she smiles wistfully. "Where did you find this?"
"I've had it in my wallet ever since."
Her eyes widen with surprise. "You've had the same wallet all that time?" she smirks, intentionally missing the point.
He humours her. "I moved it from one to the next."
Something in his tone, and the look in his eyes, makes her feel touched by his sentiment, but she's not sure she understands why. "Why? Didn't it hold bad memories for you?"
He shakes his head. "I got home that night, and the card was in my pocket. But when I saw it, I didn't think of Julia. I immediately thought of you… And it became the only link I had to you."
This time she's sure her heart is in fact skipping beats. "But our paths crossed again. You've had a pretty direct link to me for the last twenty-five years," she smiles.
He nods and smiles that shy smile that she has always found so adorable. "I know… But then it became my link to…" He pauses and swallows, before locking his eyes on hers and taking a deep breath. "… To how I really feel about you."
She's aware of her heart fluttering, and her cheeks flushing, and a lump forming in her throat.
He edges closer and takes hold of her hand as he continues, "Catherine, I believe that you were destined to receive those flowers… I think about that night all the time and every Christmas I tell myself that I'm going to tell you how I feel. But I've always talked myself out of it."
"Until now," she whispers, slightly shocked that her voice comes out so quiet.
He lets out a nervous laugh. "Yes. Until now… I was taking out my credit card to pay for your present and the card came out with it… Maybe it's the Christmas spirit: I took it as a sign."
She doesn't think she has ever seen Gil look so nervous, and she realises she has done as good a job as him at hiding her feelings. He looks positively terrified that she is going to turn him down. Although, given the circumstances surrounding their first meeting, she can understand why he would be anxious.
She swallows the lump in her throat, and adjusts their joined hands so that she is holding his. "Do you remember what I told you that night?" she asks him.
He frowns. "That you didn't really know anyone in Vegas?"
She grins. She did tell him that. She shakes her head.
"That your name was Catherine Flynn?"
There's a sparkle of mischief in his eyes now.
"No," she states gently. "That she was a fool. To have turned you down… And I'm many things, Gil, but I'm not a fool."
She sees hope flicker across his face.
"So tell me what you've been intending to tell me every year… Please."
She knows already, of course, but she feels giddy all over at the thought of hearing him say it.
He moves even closer, lifting his hand to tenderly cup her face. "Catherine… When I gave you those flowers… I could have left the card in. I love you. I have loved you since the day we met… And, regardless of your reaction to this declaration, I will love you forever."
There is really only one possible reaction to that declaration, so she leans forwards and captures his lips in a kiss. It is soft and slow, but intended to leave him in no doubt as to her returned feelings.
When they part she moves back only far enough to see his face. He is smiling, besotted, and she knows she is wearing the same expression. This certainly is better than any present she had expected to receive this year.
But, as a wicked thought creeps into her head, she can't help herself. Deliberately leaning in as if to kiss him again, she waits until her lips brush his and then pulls back, asking in as serious voice as she can muster:
"You got me a proper present as well, right?"